TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — While the ZenFone has been successful in Taiwan and Southeast Asia, it never really got its chance to shine in the U.S. — but this could change as the market is different from before.
While the ZenFone has been available in the U.S. before with its earlier models, they have always sold in thin amounts, according to data from IDC provided to Taiwan News. IDC’s data says that in 2018, there were only 366,000 ZenFones shipped to the U.S., and in 2019 that number decreased to 24,000, while in 2020 it went as low as 2,000.
At the same time, 2018-2020 is arguably when the ZenFone finally came into its own. The phone line’s origin story was in 2013, as a way to get Intel’s mobile chip into the smartphone market and bootstrap Asus’ mobile ambitions. As this chip was unproven, Intel gave it to Asus almost free of charge.
However, the results were mixed so Asus decided to move over to Qualcomm’s tried-and-true chips in late 2014 (despite Intel effectively launching the brand) after the first models had lukewarm sales results. This proved to be a wise decision on the part of Asus, as the ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 6 were both well received, offering excellent value for the money.
Things are changing though. LG recently threw in the smartphone towel after being given internal targets to become “profitable or bust” by mid-2021 (the last time it turned a profit was in 2014). Samsung’s U.S. market share has fluctuated sharply, falling as low as 16% in the fourth quarter of 2020 after reaching 32% in the first quarter of the year. As for Lenovo, it cannot crack double digits.
Meanwhile, other Chinese brands that are dominant in their home markets and major players in many emerging markets are virtually absent from the U.S. Huawei, never widely available in the U.S. but with a strong following of online orders, has suffered due to U.S. sanctions and a strong negative publicity campaign run from the Trump White House.
In its Q1 2021 global smartphone market report, Canalys noted that Huawei had slid to seventh, from first place globally due to U.S. sanctions. Xiaomi continues to do well, recently becoming the world’s second largest smartphone maker due to its sheer volume, but it only recently resolved legal issues in the U.S., which put it on a blacklist prohibiting American citizens and companies from investing or dealing with the company.
The launch of the ZenFone 8 in the U.S. in June is the latest chapter in Asus’ battle to win market share for its ZenFone lineup in America. The Asus ZenFone 8 has been called the "small phone to beat in 2021" and is generally well reviewed across the board.
According to Mashable, using the ZenFone 8 “is like watching a little guy absolutely kill it on the bench press at the gym.” In other words, the ZenFone is more formidable than it appears.
The challenge for Asus will be to build on favorable reviews and market conditions to finally break into the U.S. market. It may never have a better opportunity than now.